Gambia passed a law banning child marriage Thursday and introduced heavy jail terms for anyone who breaks the new rules.
Under the new law, a man who marries an underage girl would face 20 years in jail, her parents would get 21 years and an iman who presides over the marriage would also face time in prison.
The law also states that anyone who is aware of the marriage of a girl under the age of 18 but fails to report it could be put away for 10 years.
President Yahya Jammeh announced plans to push through the new law earlier this month, having previously said that the practice was not required under Islam — the religion of around 95 percent of the country’s 1.8 million population.
“This bill seeks to discourage the languishing practice in our society by criminalising child marriage. It is envisaged that this law will serve as a deterrent to prospective offenders,” attorney general and justice minister Mama Fatima Singhateh Thursday told parliament.
In December 2015, legislators passed a bill criminalising female circumcision and introducing prison terms of up to three years for anyone flouting the ban, a month after Jammeh branded the practice outdated and ordered its immediate cessation.